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Tip: Understanding Rank

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

When you do a search, you can sort the results bibliographically alphabetical or by “rank”. What is Rank?

Rank refers to the search engine’s “best guess” as to the relevance of the result to the search you specified. The exact method of ranking used varies a bit depending on the search. In its most basic level, when you specify a single search term, rank looks at the density of the matches for the word in the document, and how close to the beginning of the document they appear as a measure of importance to the paper’s topic. The documents with the most matches and where the term is deemed to have the most importance, have the highest “relevance” and are ranked first (presented first).

When you specify more than one term to appear anywhere in the article, the method is similar, but the search engine looks at how many of those terms appear, and how close together they appear, how close to the beginning of the document, and can even take into account the relative rarity of the search terms and their density in the retrieved file, where infrequent terms count more heavily than common terms.

To see a simple example of this, search for the words (not the phrase, so no quotes):

unconscious communications

Look at the density of matches in each document on the first page of the hits. Then go to the last page of matched documents, and observe the density of matches within the documents.

A more complex search illustrates this nicely with a single page and only 15 matches:

counter*tr* w/25 “liv* out” w/25 enact*

There are a lot of word forms and variants of the words (due to the * wildcards) above that can match, but the proximity (w/25) clause limits the potential for matching. What’s interesting here though is how easily you can see the match density decrease as you view down the short list.

The end result of selecting order by rank is that the search engine’s best “guess” as to which articles are more relevant appear higher on the list than less relevant articles.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Hochschild, A. Ehrenreich, B. (2006). Response to Commentaries in Roundtable. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 7(1):81-87.

(2006). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 7(1):81-87

Response to Commentaries in Roundtable Related Papers

Arlie Hochschild, Ph.D. and Barbara Ehrenreich, Ph.D.

In our reply to these essays, we make a number of points, among which the most important is that any psychoanalytic interpretation or intervention is premised on tacit notions about the social world in which the individual patient lives. It is also premised on notions about the actual possibility of changing that world, and notions about the means by which change occurs. Some therapy discussed here seemed to us based on various versions of First World guilt. When a patient feels guilty, it often suggests that he or she is acknowledging that something about a larger social arrangement is deeply wrong. This is an important first step. But such guilt can also act as a sort of short-hand personalistic substitute for socially organized change, as if to say, “Let me be the sacrificial lamb.” And if one sacrificial lamb lets the rest of the feast go on as is, the goal of social change is not accomplished and is often lost to sight.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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